Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy: 5 Things You Need to Know

The rate of breast cancer in women remains steady in the 21st Century, while the mortality trends are decreasing.

One statistic that’s shown a steady rise:  breast cancer patients who are undergoing breast reconstruction following mastectomy (surgery to remove the tumor) are rising about 5% annually.

“Less than 19% of women understand that the timing of their breast cancer surgery and reconstruction greatly affects their options,” says McLeod Board-certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Gerald Conner. “Less than a quarter of women even know what their options are.”

To improve women’s knowledge, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers this information:

  1.  Symmetry. If only one breast is having a mastectomy and undergoing reconstruction, do you need additional surgery on the other breast so they match in size and position?
  2. Timing. Women, who require radiation therapy following breast cancer surgery, also should wait 6-9 months before breast reconstruction.  Other patients can undergo breast reconstruction immediately after – or even as part of – the breast cancer surgery.
  3. Nipple-sparing surgery. A “nipple sparing” mastectomy is relatively new and technically challenging.  Surgeons must carefully cases that are appropriate for this procedure. If the surgeons are attempting to save the nipple as part of the cancer and breast reconstruction, women with a history of smoking face greater complications.
  4. Insurance.  Thanks to a 1999 law, commercial and employer-provided insurances are required to pay for reconstructive surgery when a woman has a mastectomy.  Check with your insurer for details.
  5. Questions. To be an informed patient, ask the surgeon planning your breast reconstruction:
  • Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
  • Were you trained in the field of plastic surgery?
  • Will this procedure be performed in a hospital?  If so, which one?
  • How many breast reconstructions have you done in the last year?
  • Which of the surgical options do you recommend for me?  Why?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos of this procedure on other patients?

Breast cancer and reconstruction affects a woman physically and emotionally.  Make sure you are comfortable with the options and your choice.

To learn more about breast reconstruction following mastectomy, click here.

Find a reconstructive surgeon.

Sources include:  McLeod Health, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention